Spent a delightful afternoon at the Papermill Theatre at Todmorden Mills yesterday for a matinée performance of Amicus Productions’ A Month in the Country (Ivan Turgenev, translated by Constance Garnett and adapted by Christopher Douglas), directed by Maureen Lukie.
Family, friends and household staff feel the heat – and, in most cases, not just the seasonal temperature – at the country home of Natalya and Arkady. Secret love and repressed feelings bubble to the surface, creating a chaotic mess of dramatically comic proportions during a series of surprises, confessions and emerging rivalries.
Lukie has an excellent cast, consistently strong across the board, for this comedy of love. Kathleen Jackson Allamby is lovely as Natalya; conflicted, bored and adored, equal parts caged lioness and spider spinning. Chris Coculuzzi gives a stand-out performance as Mihail, sharp-witted with an equally pointed tongue, all the while simmering with a desperate love for his dear friend, who happens to be his best friend’s wife. Sam Polito is adorkable as the shy and affable tutor Alexey, loved by one woman and smitten with another; and Nicole Marie McCafferty is endearing as Vera, the energetic and outspoken ward of the household, a girl on the brink of womanhood. James Lukie’s Dr. Shpigelksy is deliciously misanthropic and cynical beneath the charming bedside manner and, in his own practical, logical way, is smitten himself; Sara Kohal gives a great, layered performance as Lizaveta (Anna’s companion), who is good-natured and warm, open to love herself but not suffering fools. Zvi Gilbert’s Arkady is sweetly clueless in an absent-minded professor sort of way, but ultimately no push-over; and Carol McLennan is a delight as Arkady’s protective mother Anna, comical in her bafflement as she tries to make sense of and provide advice amongst all the goings-on. And Derek Dorey is great fun as Boltshinsov, the older man too afraid of the opposite sex to make his own proposal of marriage. Young cast members Vivien Shepherd and Lorien Aquarius also bring strong performances: Shepherd is a treat as the precocious young housemaid Katya, both witness to and messenger for the various love-afflicted among the household; and Aquarius is adorably rambunctious and mercurial as Natalya and Arkady’s son Kolya.
Shouts to set designer Arash Eshghpour for the minimalist, yet extremely effective and lovely environment for this story. The set has a lightness and sense of floating to it, as do the costumes, by Katherine Johanna Cordero, the light colours and fabrics evoking both the period and the season.
One of my favourite plays (I’ve seen other fine productions at the Shaw Festival and by Soulpepper), seeing A Month in the Country yesterday reminded me of this song:
Amicus Productions’ A Month in the Country is a delightful, funny and touching crush fest of summer love – running at the Papermill Theatre until May 10. Get yourself over there and fall in love with this play. In the meantime, check out the interview videos with the cast on the Amicus website.